First Gen Students Are Missing from the Nation’s Top Colleges. Here’s How Virtual Advising Could Help

Pen on a college application stamped "Accepted"
(Image Yin Yang, Getty Images/Stockphoto)

Ben Castleman, a professor of education at the University of Virginia, studies college access and the barriers students face in obtaining a higher education. In a recent paper, he and his coauthors found high schoolers who receive Matriculate's virtual advising are about 25 percent more likely to attend one of the nation’s top colleges than those who didn’t receive any support. 

It’s the human element that proves most helpful, in contrast to once popular approaches to guiding students via text messages or similar digital reminders. This method, known in college-access circles as nudges, are popular because they’re cheap and easy to set up. However, Castleman said there’s little evidence they’re effective.

“Affluent families are not paying for a text messaging service,” he said. “They’re paying tens of thousands of dollars for someone who is going to meet with their kid every week.” 

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Benjamin Castleman

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